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I believe Al Miller, Bill Schindler and Cal Niday were the only “500” participants to have competed with prosthetic legs? Was there a “500” that included more than one of these drivers? — Gary Shearon, via Facebook
To the best of our knowledge, the three you mentioned are the only ones who actually drove in the race, although we do know of at least one other aspirant, Dan Murphy, who took some practice laps in 1975, although he never got started on his rookie test. And while the careers of Miller, Schindler and Niday did slightly overlap, no two of them ever raced against each other in the same “500.” Miller, who started every race between 1932 and 1941, and then again in 1947 (no races during WWII), was still on hand to take an occasional “test hop” when Schindler arrived to take his rookie test in 1950 and Niday was on the grounds, “shopping” and even sitting in a cockpit or two in 1952, the year Schindler made his final appearance. Schindler’s leg was lost in a racing accident in 1936, while both Miller and Niday lost theirs in motorcycle accidents during their youth, Niday at 17 just as he was leaving high school. The best finish for any of the three was sixth by Miller (with Zeke Meyer as a relief driver) in 1934, while Niday landed a 10th-place finish in 1954. Schindler’s best finish was 14th in 1952, but he did complete the full 500 miles without the aid of a relief driver and therefore earned membership in the prestigious Champion 100 MPH club, as did Niday in ’54. Both Schindler, as a rookie in 1950, and Niday in his second start in ‘54 were the second-fastest qualifiers, although both had to start in the back by not being first-day qualifiers.
Couple of stories: In 1936, Miller crashed during the race at the head of the main straight with enough force to dump both himself and his riding mechanic — eventual “500” driver Jimmy Jackson — out onto the brick surface. A huge roar went up from the crowd and several women fainted at the sight of what appeared to be Miller’s leg flying through the air and landing on the track, which indeed it was, albeit being artificial instead of real.
The late Floyd Davis, co-winner of the 1941 race with Mauri Rose once told us, “I was there for the first time in 1937 and was on Joel Thorne’s team with several drivers including Miller. So, I am hanging out with them at Tom Beall’s diner in the garage area and we’re sitting on these wooden stools next to the lunch counter. Miller is telling stories and casually tossing a pen knife so that the blade would stick in the wooden stool next to him. All of a sudden, he misses and the blade sticks in his leg! He never even winces, pulls it out and just keeps on telling his story. I didn’t know he had a wooden leg! So I think to myself, ‘Boy, if these guys are THAT tough then maybe this isn’t for me!’”
Final story: Niday, who crashed out late in the ‘55 race while running fourth, was a professional barber who once had his own salon. When Duane Carter’s son, Pancho, was about 3 years old and sporting extremely long blond ringlets due to never having had his hair cut, it was decided one day that the time had come. Niday was pressed into service as the barber, and that memorable occasion was to be permanently recorded in a series of photographs which graced the pages of
that wonderful old racing magazine “Speed Age.”
What was the first foreign engine to win the “500”? — Jamie Walton, via Facebook
It didn’t take long for that to happen, Jules Goux winning the third running of the ”500” in 1913 with a French Grand Prix Peugeot. Not only had the two previous 500-Mile Races been won by American makes, they were actually both Indianapolis concerns, Marmon in 1911 and National in 1912.